Weekly media column 06.07.15: The media transformation of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, and ESPN’s attempt to seize the moment

Once upon a news cycle that seems much too far away, Bruce Jenner was a media darling. Practically a diva.
Note, it went far beyond the sports world. And video evidence even exists in those days before ESPN was around. Really.
Keith Jackson had been calling ABC’s coverage of the decathlon during the 1976 Summer Olympics from Montreal, the place Jenner won burst onto the scene in scintillating tape-delayed edited fashion. But prior to Jackson’s description of that 1,500 meter race, the climactic moment of the 10-event exercise, the immortal Jim McKay set the stage.
He noticed that Jenner looked restless as he awaited the start of the race from the far outside lane.
“What is going through his mind, I wonder,” said McKay of Jenner.

84210905_4x3_992We all kind of wonder, really, trying to put that in context some 40 years later.
There’s Jenner, with his surfer-dude haircut flapping as he runs each step, his white No. 935 pinned onto his tank top, capturing the decathlon to break the world record he had set in the Olympic trials.He jogs around the track, pumping his fist. His bitter challengers from the Soviet Union and West Germany are shown lying on the infield, exhausted.
McKay tags onto the video that millions of Americans are watching: “What he went through to get there, we cannot even imagine.”
If only the late McKay could talk the media through what’s going on now. Continue reading

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It’s Out of the Question: Has Jenner really affected change?

Getty Images/Vanity Fair/Variety

Getty Images/Vanity Fair/Variety

Caitlyn Jenner, Olympic decathlete?
Can’t wait to see how the next David Wallenchinsky “Complete Book of the Olympics” completes that sentence in its next update.
Granted, people change over time. It’s human nature.
And we really can’t rewrite history, no matter how many websites have been inspired to reset this week, trying to come to terms delineating what comes before Bruce or leads into current Cait, as they document what he/she has accomplished on his planet.
But now might be wise for Caitlyn to tuck that 1976 gold medal in a Bank of Malibu safe deposit box and hide the key for awhile.
change_06272012We’ve been alerted to a petition on, of all ironic places, Change.org,  demanding that the IOC “revoke Caitlyn Jennings’ Olympic medals.”
Or, just the one she once won.
Whether this is all a prank or not, a woman (we are lead to believe) from Fort Worth, Texas, has written in a rambling preamble that “we congratulate Ms. Jenner on these new developments and wish her the best. However, this creates somewhat of a problem as Ms. Jenner claims that she has always believed herself to be truly female, and therefore, was in violation of committee rules regarding women competing in men’s sports and vice versa.
“Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that we must ask whether or not it is proper that Ms. Jenner should retain her Olympic records in light of this, as we must now either claim that Bruce Jenner and Caitlyn Jenner are two entirely different people (which we know is not true), or that Bruce Jenner was, in fact, a woman participating in a men’s event. It is only fair to all involved that women receive their credit as champions of the Decathalon (sic) and that the men racing Ms. Jenner are not expected to compete with a superior, streamlined being such as herself.”
2000px-Olympic_schedule_(Competitions)_Pentathlon.svgBy the way, women aren’t allowed to compete in Olympic decathlon. They have the pentathlon. Not to be confused with Modern pentathlon. So there’s discrimination right there, right Title IXers? Unless you consider the heptathlon a civil compromise.
So there are already some 14,000 signatures on this thing calling for change, even though the IOC has already stated, in light of this petition, that “Bruce Jenner won his gold medal in the 1976 Olympic Games and there is no issue for the IOC.”
Meanwhile, another petition was fired off on the official WhiteHouse.gov site seeks the same resolution, but it will need 100,000 signatures by July 1 to get any kind of official reply by the Obama administration, because, of anyone on the planet can make this right, the President of the United States will.
The First Amendment protection of speech, petition and gender assignment notwithstanding – check the document, we think it covers all that —  doesn’t this open up a Pandora’s box of Wheaties over proper naming rights to an Olympic medal?

9548a32ceaed33263b64feb37eaaa426== And speaking of the most famous card-board tasting breakfast cereal ever.
A statement by General Mills posted this week made it painfully unclear that, in light of any public questioning of its loyalties to a product Jenner once endorsed, “Bruce Jenner continues to be a respected member of Team Wheaties.”
TMZ, the news gathering organization that requested a response from the company, came back to General Mills and said, you know, she is going by Caitlyn now … You called her “Bruce.”
“We stand by our statement,” General Mills said.
When asked by another media outlet for something a little more clarity. a General Mills spokesman said: “Bruce Jenner has been a respected member of Team Wheaties, and Caitlyn Jenner will continue to be.”
So does that mean … ?
Never mind. Continue reading

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Weekly media notes version 06.05.15 — Remember when Jenner was a real sports media darling?

What’s bound to come up in Sunday’s weekly media column:

Bruce Jenner on the cover of Sports Illustrated -- Aug.9, 1976 -- photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

Bruce Jenner on the cover of Sports Illustrated — Aug. 9, 1976 — photo by Walter Iooss Jr.

Remember back in the day when Bruce Jenner was a media darling?

That is, by the sports media?

Back when everything was “Awrright!” in the world?

In light of all that’s happened to the former Olympic decathlete — things do change — we’ve got some thoughts about how today’s media cycle has redefined the Jenner story, including ESPN’s decision to honor the transformed Caitlin Jenner with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at its upcoming ESPY shin-dig set for the Nokia Theater in L.A. Live on July 15.

There’s already been plenty of backlash to that decision. We have more thoughts on whether the ESPY Awards do, or ever have, trivialize things anyway.

More on this from our senior correspondent in media irony, Jon Stewart:

“You see, Caitlyn, when you were a man, we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen,” he said. “But now you’re a woman — and your looks are the only thing we care about.”

What’s better suited to be distributed here and now:


== David Caldwell and Tony Moskal have the call on the baseball title games for CIF Southern Section Divison I (Hart vs. Huntington Beach, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.) and Division II (Mission Viejo vs. Chino Hills, Saturday at 4 p.m.) for FoxSportsWest.com PrepZone video streaming.
Fred Salas and Jeff Tolcher have the title games for Division III (Redondo vs. Walnut, Saturday at 1 p.m.) and Division IV (South Torrance vs. Serrano, Saturday at 10 a.m.).
For the CIF Southern Section softball championships, Robert Brender and Paul Westphal have the Division I (West Ranch vs. Norco, Saturday at 6 p.m.)  and Division IV (Torrance vs. Highland). Sam Farber and Michelle Schroder do the Division V (St. Bonaventure vs. Garden Grove, Saturday at 12:30 p.m.) and Division VI (Savana vs. Paraclete, Saturday at 10 a.m.).

== Joe Buck, Tom Verducci, Harold Reynolds and Ken Rosenthal have the Angels’ game at the New York Yankees (Saturday, 4 p.m., Channel 11).

xxxex== We could pretend to give you the most extensive pieces of information on how Fox Sports — not ESPN — plans to cover the FIFA Women’s World Cup starting Saturday. Instead, we defer to Richard Deitsch at Sports Illustrated. Because he seems to care much more than one should.
“First of all I would say: don’t judge us until you see us on the air,” said David Neal, the executive producer for Fox’s Women’s World Cup coverage and a longtime NBC Sports executive. “I was brought on here three years ago, and brought solely for the purpose to get us ready for the World Cup. Based on my Olympics experience, I will tell you our commitment is at an unprecedented level.”
Fox Sports will do all 52 games of the event, but there’s no real rhyme or reason why some are on Fox Channel 11, Fox Sports 1 or even Fox Sports 2.

== Thanks to “grown man Chick Sarica” and “grown man Bob DeSanzio,” here’s a potential SAP to the NBA Finals that ABC might consider providing with tonight’s Game 1 of the Warriors-Cavs series.
Does it possibly tarnishes the legacy of an L.A. icon who did go by the name of “Chick” during his Hall of Fame career?
It’s also a reminder that Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele” return next week.

== We’ve been down this track before.
Since 1919, we are reminded in this NBCSports video, there have been 17 U.S. presidents. And 11 Triple Crown winners. Thus, the odds are better of a horse getting into the White House.

American Pharoah receives a bath from a handler in the Preakness Barn after a workout for the 140th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race, which he eventually won in the rain. (Geoff Burke-USA Today)

American Pharoah receives a bath from a handler in the Preakness Barn after a workout for the 140th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race, which he eventually won in the rain. (Geoff Burke-USA Today)

Mull that over as a possible historic Triple Crown winner could be on display by Saturday afternoon, when NBC covers the latest run by Santa Anita-based American Pharoah as he takes on the field in the Belmont Stakes (race is at about 3:30 p.m., with pre-race coverage at 1:30 p.m. on Channel 4).
A year ago, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos-based California Chrome was all the Triple Crown buzz, until he finished fourth at Belmont. Then the tone of the story — after Tonalist won the race — was how owner Steve Coburn flipped his wig afterward to NBC reporter Kenny Rice about the “coward’s way out” for other rested horses to spoil California Chrome’s day. Coburn went on ABC’s “Good Morning America” — seems he should have gone to NBC’s “Today Show” — and offered an apology.
628x471A year ago, NBC reporter Randy Moss, a former newspaper handicapper who has been covering the sport since 1979, the year after Affirmed won the last Triple Crown,  told us right before the Belmont that “it’s really a battle for me not to get too jaded when we get to this situation … I’ve been at Belmont for all the near misses. Too many times, it doesn’t transpire the way people want it to. I think there’s a keen appreciation for the challenge California Chrome faces. We’re not rooting, but having seen failure so often through so many years, you’d love to see one of these pull it off. And I think California Chrome is a great story and has a fighting chance to do it.”
This week, Moss talked about how those feelings were coming back again. Continue reading

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Kings’ Nick Nickson gets the Hockey Hall call — he’s joining Bob Miller as a Foster Hewitt recipient

i-0373ab8727acc078f193d3298ebfe656-GYI0062132446_crop_450x500Nick Nickson, the Kings’ radio voice for the last quarter century and a member of the organization as a broadcaster about to start his 35th year in the fall, has been named the latest Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner for outstanding contributions to broadcasting, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced in a release today.
That gives the franchise three Hall of Famers — current TV play-by-play man Bob Miller was the recipient of the same award 15 years ago.
Jiggs McDonald, who called Kings’ games from their inception in 1967 to 1972, got the award in 1990 after his career included calling games for the Atlanta Flames and N.Y. Islanders.
“I’m kind of speechless, to be honest,” Nickson said Thursday afternoon. “When you get news like this, maybe it’s a little unusual in my profession to say it, but as a broadcaster, I was speechless when I first got the news.”
Nickson, a Rochester native who moved to L.A. after the calling games for the franchise’ New Haven affiliate, started his time with the Kings in 1981-82 as Miller’s analyst on games primarily for radio but simulcast on TV.
“I remember one day when Pete Weber left (as the broadcast analyst), and Parker MacDonald was the Kings’ head coach,” said Miller. “He told me if I was looking for a new partner, the guy he once worked with in New Haven might work well with me. I gave Nick a call and told him that the job was for a colorman, but he said he wanted to give it a try, to get his foot in the door, and we worked for nine straight years.”
In 1990, when the Kings split their TV and radio teams, Nickson moved to the radio booth and has called games there ever since, currently heard on KABC-AM (790).
He has worked with five different analysts, with current partner Daryl Evans having been there the longest, since 1999.
In addition to that, Nickson has coordinated the team’s radio network, written stories for the team’s media guide and program and hosted the “Kings Talk” post game shows for many seasons.
Nickson was at his Santa Clarita home with his wife Carolyn about to babysit their granddaughter when the call came from Chuck Kaiton, president of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association and the Carolina Panthers’ radio play-by-play man.
“Nick has been one of the most popular radio and TV personalities in Southern California for over three decades,” said Kaiton. “He is extremely worthy of this award and we from the NHL Broadcasters’ Association congratulate him on this distinct honor.”
Miller said Nickson’s honor is a “great accomplishment, because none of us start out in a career — as athletes or announcers — with a goal of being in the Hall of Fame. That’s so far removed from just getting a job and staying with it. But when that call does come, it’s such a great feeling.”
Nickson said the news announced today still feels “out of the blue,” especially when he was out in his car running errands and heard KNX-AM (1070)’s Randy Kerdoon relay the news during a sports update.
Aside from getting a congratulatory call from Miller and his wife, Judy, Nickson said he has heard from many others in the NHL broadcasting fraternity, including Weber, Ducks broadcaster Steve Carroll, and Pat Foley, the Chicago Blackhawks’ broadcaster who won the award last season.
Miller is one of several past Foster Hewitt recipients who are on the selection committee, which includes NBC’s Mike Emrick, who has known Nickson from his days doing Rochester minor-league games.
“There are many names discussed and opinions given and then voted upon, but longevity is one of the important criteria for this award, and that really means something with Nick,” said Miller. “What’s really neat is that Nick’s dad is in his 90s now and we hope he can be there on that night to see Nick get a plaque that will have his picture on it in the Hall forever.”

1403099527000-stanley-cupThe fact that the Kings have won two Stanley Cups in the last three seasons, and Nickson’s calls have been used on many highlights during that span since he was the primary Kings’ voice with NBC taking over network TV coverage and replacing Miller, could have played some role in giving Nickson new-found exposure along with his longevity.
“Maybe the name gets out there and the voice is heard in early June by fellow broadcasters and it turns a light on in their thinking,” Nickson said. “I would like to think it’s all based on my work over a number of years.
“For many years when we were on the West Coast, it felt like we were on an island, long before expansion into the Sun Belt, and before cable and satellite TV and even satellite radio and the Internet. People didn’t get the opportunity around the league to hear each other much. Put that all together, and for all of us in this business, it gives you the ability to be heard quite frankly and you get more of a chance.”
Nickson, who has called more than 3,000 games as a Kings broadcaster, was inducted into the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2009.
In 2011 he was inducted into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y.
It was also announced Thursday that Bob McKenzie, a longtime writer in Toronto, a former editor in chief of The Hockey News and an “insider” for TSN as well as NBC, was given the Elmer Ferguson award for excellence in hockey journalism.
Kings fans may remember it was McKenzie who wrote, during the 1993 Western Conference finals between the Kings and Maple Leafs, that Kings’ star Wayne Gretzky “looked as though he were skating with a piano on his back.” The line seemed to wake Gretzky up as he had a game-winning OT goal in Game 6 and a hat trick in Game 7 to push the Kings to their first Stanley Cup Final.
Both Nickson and McKenzie will be honored at the Hall during its Nov. 9 ceremony this year.

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Charter subscribers to have Dodgers’ SportsNet LA by Tuesday — at no additional charge

The purported 300,000 subscribers of Charter Communications cable service in Southern California will have access to the Dodgers’ SportsNet L.A. channel beginning Tuesday at no additional charge, the company and the team said Thursday morning.

241-6026The move that affects Charter subscribers —  the bulk of which in Southern California make up parts of Long Beach, Pasadena, the West Covina and some of the San Gabriel Valley, Glendale/Burbank, San Bernardino and much of the Inland Empire, Malibu and other parts of L.A. County– also allows residents of those areas who have DirecTV, Dish, AT&T Uverse or Verizon FIOS to change providers if they want access to the Dodgers-owned channel that launched in February, 2014. To date, it has only been available to Time Warner Cable subscribers as well as a small pocket of Bright House and Champion Broadband in the San Gabriel Valley.

SportsNet LA will on Charter’s Channel 44 for standard-def and Channel 789 for high def in the L.A. market. Because the Dodgers’ territorial rights expand to parts outside of Southern California, it will also be on Charter’s systems in San Luis Obispo and Porterville. The SportsNet LA Spanish-language telecast as well as secondary audio that has Korean language service is also included.

“The Dodgers are an iconic franchise and part of the fabric of the community,” said Tom Rutledge, President and CEO of Charter Communications, in a statement.  “We are very excited to be bringing the Dodgers back to Charter customers in the L.A. area.”

On May 26, it was announced that Charter would seek approval to buy out Time Warner Cable in a $55-billion merger, and a promise was given that Charter customers would begin to get the Dodgers channel while the government approval began. No date was given at that time.

The fact that Charter customers will receive SportsNet LA immediately at no extra charge, as confirmed by a Charter spokesman on Thursday, is an about-face change in recent negotiations, brought on by the merger talks.

Before these merger talks began, however, Charter had dug in against Time Warner Cable, along with DirecTV and many other competitors, claiming the reported $5 per subscriber fee was too high and it did not want to pass that on to its customers who were not interested in having that channel added to their system. TWC, as well as DirecTV, have recently added surcharges to customer bills to augment the costs the companies have incurred for sports-related channels that have higher monthly fees based on rising rights fees involved in the negotiation of those deals.

The Dodgers’ deal with Time Warner Cable was reported in early 2013 to be a 25-year contract that will bring the team some $8.35 billion over that period. TWC outbid previous Dodgers’ rights holder, Fox Sports West/Prime Ticket.

The Charter launch on Tuesday will have Vin Scully calling the Dodgers’ home game against Arizona at 7:10 p.m.

Meanwhile, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) took the opportunity to issue a statement again requesting binding arbitration for DirecTV and other cable and dish companies that have yet to accept the Time Warner Cable parameters to adding SportsNet LA.

“I am pleased that Charter Communications will begin carrying SportNet LA, but the work is not done yet,” he said. “Too many Angelenos still won’t have access to the Dodgers because of a 14 month dispute between cable companies over how to provide Los Angeles residents with access to Los Angeles Dodgers television broadcasts.

“I am reissuing an earlier request for Time Warner Cable into enter binding arbitration with DirecTV and others. This would be a fair and fast way to return programming to consumers. Time Warner Cable has agreed to enter into the arbitration process. They have offered to make SportsNet LA available immediately to all fans upon the initiation of binding arbitration. Immediate binding arbitration is the only mechanism that will get the Dodgers games on the air now.”

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